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Open versus Closed School Policy

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I am familiar with only two basic strategies employed by schools today. The most publicized is the open version: "let’s put all our lessons on the web" or seek transparency, as typified by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and some other universities. Commendable and perhaps naive, it has one very real advantage: the school's reputation and savoir-faire is verifiable and there for the world to see.

However in the EFL community it is individuals like Josef Essberger, Charles Kelly of The Internet TESL Journal or Alan Townend at www.english.best -- who are the pioneers of this new medium with little or no support from the universities. My hope is that schools will join in this effort especially in Europe and Japan.

The second major school policy is the closed version: a sort of academic copy of business websites, intranets, and extranets. Access is limited and materials (lessons, tests, multimedia, etc.) are uploaded on to the school's platform. In principle only students and professors of the particular school can view them.

At first glance the closed method has a lot going for it. You don't have to develop your proper lessons. You can just buy them. Your teachers and students only need to know how to go to a web page and type in their password. One real danger in this approach is that professors will put copyright materials, whether films, magazine articles or portions of books on the intranet behind the "firewall" of the platform very much like what they do with photocopiers. After all, who will know? That is just it. It would take just one disgruntled student to blow the whistle. Moreover, there is little or no outside supervision, review, or cooperation. There is little or no acquisition of new skills for the organization. Finally the Internet reputation of the school is the school's portal and little more.

Why should a school's reputation matter? One omnipresent reason is recruitment. Many students will have there first impression of a school or university via the Internet.

Most of us search with Google or some other search engine. We can't expect students of the future to be any different. They won't consider your school if they can't find you.

What constitutes a schools Internet reputation? Basically, it is the keywords associated with the school plus the number of links or the number of visits to the school's pages. I have put together a web page that can quantify a school's or at least a website's Internet presence called "Kahula Webtools – Several SEO tools at Your Fingertips"

Presently, I'm sorry to say, few schools have any keywords associated with them. Even with webtools and a good deal of imagination you'll be hard pressed to find many keywords linked to a school's pages.

Obviously, a school's web reputation is aided greatly if there are many interesting pages on a school's website. Yet, a lot of schools that I am acquainted with are making it more and more difficult for their professors and students to place anything on the web. I hope that teachers can use "Kahula Webtools" to demonstrate the effect their pages have on the Internet community to their school's administration. In addition the "Kahula Service Manual" explains how to promote teachers pages with search engines and ESL and EFL organizations. What other benefits are there in opening your school up to the Internet? This is a great discussion question and I would like to hear from you. I think a great deal of the answer lies in recent tendencies that I've observed lately.
Author: Christopher Yukna